Atlanta, an open-source city

Mayor Kasim Reed has a strong track record of expanding transparency, accountability and efficiency in the city of Atlanta. Since 2010, his administration has provided more than 2 million documents and 500,000 e-mails to the public and media under the Open Records Act. Despite the claims of Councilwoman Felicia Moore, we respond fully and timely to all public information requests.

A few weeks ago, Moore asked for unfettered individual access to the city’s financial records through Oracle, the software program that manages all accounts and human resources records. She wanted to search the city’s financial and employee data, at will, without restriction. This unprecedented access would raise serious privacy concerns around confidential information such as employee medical records. Elected officials, government agencies and media organizations must find a delicate balance between providing critical information to the public in a timely manner and protecting the privacy of employees and citizens.

Further, we are also deeply concerned about how the disclosure of personal financial information will hinder the administration’s efforts to attract new business and jobs to the city. Retaining a level of confidentiality is fundamental to continuing our strong track record of business recruitment. Equally troubling, Moore’s request was solely for her individual use. We are particularly concerned with granting Moore access to this information, given her work as a part-time real estate agent.

It is quite reasonable the administration denied Moore’s request, given that we have been unable to identify any other municipal government in Georgia that makes its data available in this fashion. However, we have offered to provide the specific records she is seeking.

This administration has worked hard to improve the public’s access to information and records in a responsible manner. From the overhaul of the city’s website in 2011 to the recent launch of ATL311, there has never been more access to important information about Atlanta than right now.

After a citizen’s interest report found the city needed to improve public access to financial information, Reed charged the administration with finding a solution. At a recent government “hackathon,” programmers and developers worked with city officials to create a financial website that will allow citizens to access the city’s budget data. The website is in its final stages of development and is expected to launch by year’s end.

Atlanta is also a 2014 Code for America city. Through this initiative, we’re connecting programmers and municipal leaders to develop innovative, technology-based solutions to improve services. We have created applications that will reduce wait times at our Municipal Court, improve access for local businesses to participate in the city’s procurement process, and allow our citizens to research and vote on projects considered in the 2015 Infrastructure Bond.

The city has also partnered with Neighborhood Nexus, a website that houses Atlanta’s aggregate data sets for public view. Crime statistics, 911 call data, GIS maps and more are posted on the website for anyone to view and research. In addition, the Focus On Results (FOR) Atlanta team is preparing to launch an interactive website on city performance data. And already, important public information such as Atlanta’s annual budget and its audit results are publicly available online.

It’s unfortunate Moore, who has voted against the city’s budget for the past three years and has voted “No” on nearly every piece of transparency-related legislation before the City Council, chose to wage this ill-conceived campaign against Reed and the city of Atlanta. Our citizens would be better served if she instead focused on helping Atlanta continue on the path to becoming an open-source city.

Michael Geisler is chief operating officer for the city of Atlanta.

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